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BOOKISH VIEW: SUPERSTAR INDIA–FROM INCREDIBLE TO UNSTOPPABLE–SHOBHAA DE

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Khidki (Window)

–Read India Read initiative–

TITLE: SUPERSTAR INDIA

–FROM INCREDIBLE TO UNSTOPPABLE–

SHOBHAA DE

PUBLISHED BY PENGUIN IN 2008– 456 pages 

Abridged for a quick read

 

    The book is full of masala … quite like the proverbial Bhanmati ka pitara—the wonder casket. It seems, whatever, dawned her mind and heart. She just penned it down—so in many ways she has opened her heart. Shobhaa is, as old as independent India. So, she runs through India keeping that in mind, in her flamboyant narrative style. But the content is quite scattered and even skewed at places. In fact any regular gazer of a newspaper or a periodical may find a great amount of familiarity with the content. So, while reading the book the reader might just start reminiscing, where he or she had read it earlier. As ‘SUPERSTAR INDIA’ is not some deeply treasured secret in this day and age of internet, driven by search engines, and the aggressive paper and electronic media. So a lot of it seems to be a lift-off from there. True enough. The book is well styled, well ornamented, orotund, and is quite generous. With the munificent usage of ‘within-the-brackets’ that simplifies or elaborates the meaning of many of its subtle sentences—her aristocratic and well born writing style—I guess. Also, in galore there are ellipses and punctuation marks. The narration is loudly verbose but with sound construct of sentences, of course to zenith the literary astuteness. In a nutshell it is a good detailing of, the already circulating India’s contemporary and ancient history of those times, in a monotonous and drowsy speed and style. Where, she could have sharpened the content by not leaving it open ended and maybe with some sub-chapters and even span breakers.

    Nevertheless, the book also has some latent strengths, within the long spans of boredom. She is indeed very bold and doesn’t spare anyone which is plus point. She brings in a wide range of topics. But it doesn’t tie up all to well, to derive any lessons of life. So an average reader may not find it very interesting. Especially, if he has mistook the book for an interesting stretched out story. Although the title of the book is SUPERSTAR INDIA. But in reality she is more critical than appreciative about her. Where, I’m forced to think. As to why did Shobhaa think of writing this book at all? It remains a mystery to me. Did she want to criticize the West? Or did she want to praise India. Down the line she also criticizes Indian men to raise the flag of Indian women? She praises India only when she compares her with the Western World. Otherwise, she is critical about her most of the times.

    She starts off well with her visit to Agra but then she goes all over the place after some sixty odd pages. Where, she covers personalities, political system, Indian beliefs, Hollywood, Bollywood, the Mayawatis and the ilks, schedule caste and tribe in great detail. 

    She downloads most of what she knows about India. But then it does not add up to a formidable plot. No doubt she throws her heart out, by being abusive, frank and quite unbothered. But all of that doesn’t churn into an interesting read. Let’s not forget the acid test of any book is the impact it leaves behind after you’ve completed it. She has flagged some great facts and some interesting points as mentioned below:

    People still correlate Bollywood with old songs and not the new ones/She appreciates India here and there, but also criticizes her, no end. But when she compares India with the western world she begins to praise her/Describes how India is evolving sexually/Talks about Indian realities/Promotes the Taj Mahal/Paints a picture of Indian hospitality/Book satisfies the Indian ego but only partially. As it even magnifies the chinks of Indian civilzation/Reveals many hidden facts about Indian Corporate Inc/Facts about foreign citizens of Indian origin … like Zubin Mehta and Laxmi Narain Mittal to name a few/India’s great culture of sacrifice/She sounds like an American Born Confused Desi (ABCD) herself. When she makes fun of Indians when it comes to their age old customs and habits/Her views are quite clear about how we treat our elders/describes an Indian family life/ She also talks of metro cities and its cultures but doesn’t go so much in detail about the rural areas barring the established religious and social practices/Indian weddings including destination weddings/Intermittently even speaks of her family/Talks about big brother America and page 3 culture/At quite a few places it is India versus the Western world/Talks of Indian spices in the US/Talks of Indians being superior in many ways where she builds the tempo in certain pages/Very vividly she describes the contemporary lifestyle  of the Indian megapolis/Indian shamelessness while defecating in the open/She even errs out to see love making in Bombay chawls/Bathroom habits/Death rituals/Bombay municipal corporation/Describes Indians as sex machines/Writes quite bluntly about sex/Talks about ‘nazar’—the evil eye. And calls herself a firm believer of that/She even talks of death rituals/ She is very bold and doesn’t spare anyone—is what I liked about the book/She is descriptive but doesn’t connect the dotted lines/ She describes the lives in China and Pakistan quite well.

 Some catchy lines from the book

    ‘When all hell fails, we pull out Gandhi. The Mahatma has saved India’s ass in more ways than one. If he only knew how frequently and arbitrarily we use the Gandhi trick to impress outsiders.’

    ‘Most Indians are like elastic bands, ready to stretch themselves or shrink, depending on circumstances.’

    ‘Adjust’ is a favourite word in India, and is used across the board, even by those who barely speak intelligible English.’

    ‘The trouble is Indians aren’t used to being prosperous. We are more comfortable dealing with poverty—after all, poverty is a staple here, and has been for centuries.’

    Well … if you have the glorious time and patience pick it up.

*****  

By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases especially cancer. Should you wish to donate for the cause. The bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share it if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases. Should you wish to donate for the cause the bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

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Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(The book is about a young cancer patient. Now archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Is a book on ‘singlehood’ about a Delhi girl now archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture, Delhi)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Is a fiction written around the great city of Nawabs—Lucknow. It describes Lucknow in great detail and also talks about its Hindu-Muslim amity. That happens to be its undying characteristic. The book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival of 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. It was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

TYPICAL TALE OF AN INDIAN SALESMAN

(Is a story of an Indian salesman who is, humbly qualified. Yet he fights his ways through unceasing uncertainties to reach the top. A good read not only for salesmen. The book was launched on 10th February, 2018 in Gorakhpur Lit-Fest. Now available in Amazon, Flipkart and Onlinegatha

(ALL THE ABOVE TITLES ARE AVAILABLE FOR SALE IN AMAZON, FLIPKART AND OTHER ONLINE STORES OR YOU COULD EVEN WRITE TO US FOR A COPY)

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BOLLYWOOD, CRICKET & loc

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

indian-jawan

    At times it appears the Indian Army Jawan, who fights terrorism at the Line of Control is only fighting to save his own house, but in reality he is fighting for all of us. But the tragedy with Indians is that they show no solidarity with him. Our Prime Minister preaches so much about terrorism in all international forums. But back home India is a divided and selfish lot. People from all professions are only self-centered about themselves and their professions. We don’t realise by behaving in this insensitive manner tomorrow, people may desist from fighting for the country. What will happen then? There is indeed a greater need to feel for our brave jawans and we must perennially keep their morale high. Colonel Anil Chawla puts it quite beautifully.

…………………………………..

Col Anil Chawla, a serving soldier of the INDIAN ARMY wrote this:

Will sending Pakistani artists back, stopping cricket and business with Pakistan actually end terror from Pakistan?

No, it most certainly will not.

BUT there is an emotion called solidarity.

YOU CANNOT MAKE FILMS, PLAY CRICKET, AND DO BUSINESS AS IF EVERYTHING IS FINE, BECAUSE IT IS NOT.

indian-jawan-3indian-jawan2

It makes the soldier wonder aloud, “Why should I alone bear the weight of conflict?”

This conflict between India and Pakistan is not the soldier’s personal war. He is dying and killing for you and me. Imagine a situation in which the soldier felt, and behaved, like Salman Khan, Karan Johar and Mahesh Bhatt? Imagine if a soldier walked up to his superior and said, “Sir, while I am dying on the Line of Control, these people are going about as if everything is absolutely fine between the two countries.”

Why should he alone sacrifice for India, when others were making merry?

Patriotism and sacrifice is not the sole responsibility of the soldier.

The United States boycotted the Moscow Olympics in 1980, and the Russians did likewise when they boycotted the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. This is what happens when national interest is held paramount. And this is what must happen now.

18 families have been shattered like glass … But the pain of Fawad Khan’s departure is too much to bear, it seems …”

…………………………………

    Film Stars have nothing to do with terrorism…

    Singers have nothing to do with terrorism ….

    Writers have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Directors have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Performers have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Journalists have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Activists have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Cricketers have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Politicians have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Businessmen have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Professionals have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Lawyers have nothing to do with terrorism …

    Then for whom are the Jawans sacrificing their lives for?

    Jai Hind.

*****

NAWAZUDDIN SIDDIQUI HAS EVERY RIGHT TO ACT IN RAMLILA

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

 

 

By stopping Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Muzaffarnagar, from playing the role of Maaricha, uncle of Ravan, in the local Ramlila, after 20 years, Shiv Sena has stood out like a thorn in the society. Ramlila is a famous play enacted each year, all over India and even abroad. Let me for a moment juxtapose Muzaffarnagar with Lucknow on Ramlila. Both have been holding it since ages. Where, Lucknow is even more famous. For a lot of Muslim actors take part in the local Ramlila, and at times they even go on and on with their acting, even when they are keeping Rozas during Ramzan, if it happens to fall in the same month. This intermingling is the ultimate beauty, of one and only one—India. We are no deep state, but the biggest democracy of the world. Where, Ramlila, Dushera, Durga Puja and Diwali are our tall, widespread, cultural and festive totem-poles. Ramlila is therefore our Indian-ness. That belongs, to we Indians, and not Hindus alone. Nawazuddin is our own son. Rather the worthy son of Muzaffarnagar, and now even of India, who entertains us through his movies. He was born and brought up in Muzaffarnagar. So, Shiv Sena cannot just snatch away the colourful memories of his childhood by not allowing him to act in his home theatre 20 years later. He is free to visit his childhood the way he wants in his own city. Muzaffarnagar is amassed in him, so you just can’t dig it out like that. Shiv Sena needs to understand this. And, last but not the least, you just can’t seize hold of any Indian’s Indian-ness, by just citing his religion, because there is a fine distinction between Religion and Culture.

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Article: Bollywood between Diamond and Platinum Jubilee

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Bollywood between diamond and Platinum jubilee  

Remake: epic serial ‘Mahabharat’ starring superstars

 

    Bollywood’ is the sobriquet for the Hindi film industry that is based out of Mumbai. The term is also, loosely used, as a synecdoche to refer to the whole of Indian cinema. It has made millions and trillions through movies. And has a huge Indian following. The name has even made ripples abroad. It has now been in existence for more than eighty five years. Raja Harishchandra, was the first silent feature film made by Dadasaheb Phalke in 1913. By 1930s, the Indian Film Industry was producing over 200 films per annum. Since then it has never looked back. It is one of the largest film producers in India. Representing 43% of net box office revenue. While Telugu and Tamil cinema represent 36%. The rest of the regional cinema constitutes 21% as of 2015. It is also one of the largest centers for film production in the world. Formally referred to as ‘Hindi cinema.’ It is one of the biggest movie industries in the world, in terms of the number of people employed and the number of films produced in 2011. Where, over 3.5 billion tickets were sold across the globe. Which in comparison is 900,000 tickets more than Hollywood.

    Hitherto, Bollywood, has functioned quite enviously, under different banners for more than eighty five years. And has given us some wonderful movies. But it is about time. It now comes under one united banner. To give India the entertainment of a lifetime—the real dhamaka of the century.

    It missed the lifetime opportunity of a diamond jubilee celebration. And platinum is still far away. But by then many superstars of today may hang their boots. So now is the right time. To produce a mega serial where all the diggajes of Bollywood can come together and act, and for the sake of Bollywood’s commemoration they should act free. If we delay it further. We may miss out on many such great actors coming together as they may call it a day. The idea is to make them act together in a mega project. Which may not be possible in a three hour movie. I would therefore suggest a remake of the great epic ‘Mahabharat’ which is still the most popular serial ever made in the Indian history.

    Imagine how would you feel watching Mahabharat. Scripted by the all time famous duo of Saleem-Javed as was done in Sholay, music by A.R Rehman, songs by Lata Mangeshkar, Asha Bhonsale, Anuradha Podwal, Anup Jalota and Bhupendra (unfortunately Kishore and Mukesh are no more). And my dream my caste. To name a few would be: Amitabh Bachchan as Bheeshma Pitamah, Nana Patekar as Dronacharya, Anupam Kher as Mahatma Vidur, Ajay Devgun as Krishna, Amir Khan as Karan, Shahrukh Khan as Yudhistir, Salman Khan as Bheem, Kritik Roshan as Arjun, Ranbir Kapur as Nakul, Abhishek Bachchan as Sahdev, Javed Jafri as Shakuni, Danny as Dhritrasth (ideal would have been Amrish Puri, but sad he is no more), Jaya Bachan as Gandhari, Shabana as Kunti, Priyanka Chopra as Draupadi.

These are only few names and characters with my limited knowledge. Once you start detailing it. Many more icons will surface, to take on many more challenging characters of Mahabharat.

But will this ever happen? Well nothing is impossible. The way we like watching Mughle-Azam even after half a century. This serial too shall be watched for time immemorial.

Come on Bollywood. Start thinking about it.

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

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https://kamleshsujata.wordpress.com

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Share if you like it

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Shravan Charity Mission is an NGO that works for poor children suffering from life threatening diseases. Should you wish to donate for the cause the bank details are given below:

NAME OF ACCOUNT: SHRAVAN CHARITY MISSION

Account no: 680510110004635 (BANK OF INDIA)

IFSC code: BKID0006805

*

Our publications

GLOOM BEHIND THE SMILE

(Archived in 7 prestigious libraries of the US, including, Harvard University and Library of Congress. It can also be accessed in MIT through Worldcat.org. Besides, it is also available for reading in Libraries and archives of Canada and Cancer Aid and Research Foundation Mumbai)  

ONE TO TANGO … RIA’S ODYSSEY

(Archived in Connemara Library, Chennai and Delhi Public Library, GOI, Ministry of Culture)

AADAB LUCKNOW … FOND MEMORIES

(Launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2014)

REFRACTIONS … FROM THE PRISM OF GOD

(Co-published by Cankids–Kidscan, a pan India NGO and Shravan Charity Mission, that works for Child cancer in India. The book is endorsed by Ms Preetha Reddy, MD Apollo Hospitals Group. Book was launched in Lucknow International Literary Festival 2016)

(CAN BE BOUGHT FROM ON LINE BOOK STORES OR WRITE TO US FOR COPIES)

*****

 

SHORT STORY: FTII- WHY DID KALCHAKRA HAVE TO PUNISH GAJENDRA SINGH CHAUHAN

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

goi gajendra chauhan kalchakra

Long time back I had read a story about a small sparrow; that goes as follows:

THE STORY OF THE SPARROW


On a beautiful winter day in Siberia, encouraged by the warm rays of the sun in a clear blue sky, a little sparrow left the security of his nest to fly and frolic in the air, but the 40o below zero temperature quickly overcame the imprudent bird who fell on the ground, frozen, and found himself buried in the snow where he would certainly have died in an instant. But by chance a cow trotted by at that moment, and at the very spot where the sparrow was struggling for his last breath, she dropped a large soft cow-dung on top of the bird. The warmth of this dung-bath resuscitated the moribund sparrow. He was so happy, he raised his head out of the cow-shit and started to twitter joyfully, which drew the attention of a wandering homeless cat who delicately pulled the sparrow out of the shit and devoured him.

The moral of this story: Your enemy is not necessarily the one who shits on your head. Your friend, however, is not necessarily the one who pulls you out of the shit. And besides, one should never twitter when one is buried in shit.

The recent controversy in FTII in which actor Gajendra Singh Chauhan got caught up reminded me of the above story, where for no fault of his, Gajendra is in the cross fire. Can we call it the wrath of Kalchakra?

For Gajendra too like the little sparrow was perched in his warm nest, quite away from the limelight doing small roles in movies and television serials, is when the GOI approached him as the warm rays of Siberia and Gajendra then dared to fly out of his nest, quite unaware of the Siberian winters—in this case being the sting of FTII- students.

The new job like the cow-dung covered Gajendra for a while when the wandering cats of Bollywood, Social Media, TV-channels and some Political Parties and so also the students union of FTII, who thought he did not have the tall stature, and moreover, he had committed the grevious crime of acting as Yudhistir in Mahabharat, thereby promoting Hinduism was definitely not suitable for the post. Because, in current day India even talking about Hinduism is considered non-secular by some.

While the wandering cats have so far not devoured the so called sparrow—Gajendra, but the Kalchakra has definitely crushed his film career. For Gajendra Singh Chauhan will now be known more for his poor stalk in Bollywood than the hard-work he has put in to make a career in Bollywood. And quite unknowingly and unintentionally he has antagonised and estranged many bigwigs of Bollywood and the social media; and has emerged as a full-fledged victim of Kalchakra.

    But what was his fault in all of this; that the electronic media almost stripped him naked as far as his career credentials went, that people who didn’t know about his average career also know about it now.

Kalchakra is not in the business of compensating losses and therefore won’t compensate Gajendra Singh Chauhan, for having torn apart his career and making him a laughing stock. I don’t know about GOI how they will view it. But the reality is,

    In life you often don’t get into problems because of your own doings, but it could also be the doing of others and in this case it was clearly the Kalchakra disguised as GOI.

For in life you really don’t know what will come and hit you, or who is friend and how distant is your enemy. But mind you Kalchakra spares no one, not even the wandering cats.

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SARBJIT SINGH’S SISTER RECOUNTS THE 3 TIMES SHE MET HIM IN 23 YEARS BEFORE HE DIED IN 2013

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By Kamlesh Tripathi

New Doc 67_1New Doc 68_1

This is a nostalgic account narrated by Dalbir Singh, elder sister of Sarbjit Singh:

  • Sarbjit Singh had to spend 23 years in a Pakistani prison for a small mistake he committed unknowingly, and eventually he was murdered there—He headed in the wrong direction, towards Pakistan, at night after working in his fields located close to the LOC in Punjab and was nabbed by Pakistani rangers.
  • It is an emotional account of a sister; and pixels well about their relationship.
  • Dalbir Singh, Sarabjit’s elder sister considered him as her son. And after Sarabjit was whisked away by Pakistani authorities for 23 years she slept on the floor to please her God for his safe return.
  • It is said; sometimes there is success in defeat and sometimes there is defeat in success—it was success in defeat for Dalbir. For one cannot fathom the turbulence Dalbir must have undergone for 23 long years, each time blaming only herself that she hasn’t done enough to save her brother and she must continue with bigger and untiring efforts—so that was her success; and in the end not being able to save Sarbjit, her defeat.
  • I liked the account as it reminded me of my defeat, when I too could not save my ailing son from cancer, but like Dalbir the untiring  efforts that me and my family had put in gave a whiff of success. For in life one should only try his best and not get intimidated by what is beyond one’s capacity.
  • It also gives an account of how Indian prisoners are treated in Pakistani prisons.

  • Briefly describes how Indian prisoners are treated in Pakistani prisons.
  • Soon to be released as a film.

TOI- 26.5.15

SARBJIT SINGH’S SISTER RECOUNTS THE 3 TIMES SHE MET HIM IN 23 YEARS BEFORE HE DIED IN 2013

I am now determined to tell the world the real story of Sarbjit

Dalbir Singh, 61, is the older sister of Sarbjit Singh, a farmer from Bhikhiwind in Punjab (just 5 kms from the the Indo-Pakistan border). He by mistake crossed over in 1990 while farming, got mistaken as an Indian spy, was given capital punishment in 1991, but was not hanged. He was kept in Kot Lakhpat jail in Lahore for 23 years, before he was killed by inmates a few days after the death of Afzal Guru in India. During his 23 years in jail, his older sister Dalbir Singh who treated him more like her son than her brother, made it her life’s agenda to get him released. While she finally did not succeed, she is determined to reach his real story to the world through a film being made based on his life. The film will be directed by Omung Kumar, the National Award-winning director of Mary Kom. Dalbir Singh met her brother only three times in those 23 years. She opens up to us for the first time after her brother’s death in 2013 and recounts the three times she met her brother in jail. Excerpts:

Did instance like the Kargil War affect you?

At the time of Kargil, I got very scared. There is a nearby village called Khasa, where many army officers live. I went to meet them and asked Brigadier sahab, given the situation how it would affect the way Pakistan would treat our prisoners. I was scared that if there would be war, how would the prisoners come out? I met another Brigadier who told me that if there would be war, we would open up the jail and release the prisoners, so that an innocent man should not get bombed and die in jail. But he didn’t know what the Pakistanis would do. We would feel scared that Khuda na kare, if there was a bomb thrown in jail, how would he be able to run? My heart would sink if there was a flood or earthquake in Lahore.

How did Sarbjit actually cross over to Pakistan?

Our village is just about 4-5 kms from the border. I myself have gone many times to the other side while working together with the women from the other side on our fields. We would be working on our respective fields and sometimes, even eat a meal together with the Pakistani brothers and sisters on the other side.

Gradually and slowly, the situation got bad to worse and they first put a rough line to segregate a boundary and then, there were some fundamentalists on both sides who did not have good thoughts. Though I believe that ours were not as negative as the people on the other side. There would be things smuggled in across the borders, but the women had good behaviour towards each other and there was no enemity. However, if there was anybody who went the other side by mistake, they would be caught and put behind bars termed as ‘spies’. That night, we had finished our dinner when a friend of Sarbjit came and took him to the fields to work. The field was right next to the border. As is usually the case in Punjab, the men drink and then work. Sarbjit and his friend too had their full share of drinks and then, Sarbjit put his axe on his shoulder and not realising which direction he was walking, he walked into the Pakistan side. At that time, there was not even a wire to show the borderline. He was caught and blindfolded and only the next morning, he realised that he was in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat jail, accused of being an Indian spy by the name of Manjit Singh. Sarbjit was very fond of playing kabaddi and he would often tell me, ‘You wait and see. One day the world will know me as this famous pahelwan.’ I didn’t know then that he would one day become world famous, but not as a kabaddi player. When Sarabjit suddenly disappeared, I initially thought that he must have been picked up by a terrorist group. But it was after nine months, later when he was first presented in the Pakistani courts that he wrote a letter to me telling us how he had been arrested accused of being a man called Manjit Singh, who was allegedly behind four bomb blasts. He asked to please get Shri Akhand Sahib path done. After that in every subsequent letter; he wrote to me details of what he went through. I have all his letters kept in a big bag with me. On August 15, 1991, he was held guilty and sentenced to be hanged. But for so many years, they neither released him nor hanged him despite my making so many appeals and requests for his forgiveness, even though he had committed no crime.

Why was it difficult for you to meet him?

I did not even have a passport, but right from 1990, I tried a lot to go but I never got the permission. At times, I would read in the newspapers that yes, his family can come and meet him, but then there was a call from Pakistan that there was news printed there that they would not grant us permission. Finally I met Rahul Gandhi and took his help to get the visa for me and finally got the visa along with my husband, Sarbjit’s wife and his two daughters Swapandeep and Poonam (Swapandeep was adopted by Dalbir as she does not have kids of her own). While we got the visa and reached Lahore, we were still not allowed to meet him. The jail authorities would say that they had not got permission from Islamabad and Islamabad would say that Lahore had not given the permission. After nine days of feeling mentally tortured, living in Gurudwara Dera Sahib there, I decided to appeal in the High Court. The judge was very kind and he immediately granted permission. It was too late that day, but the next day on April 23, 2008, we all went to jail to see Sarbjit.

What happened in jail that day?

He had been kept in a tiny room where you could hardly stand up with tall walls outside with a big lock. A mother can easily recognise her son. As soon as they opened the door to his room for us to go inside, I recognised him. He was standing at an angle and seeing him, my heart was sinking. His eyesight had gone weak and he wore a broken pair of glasses tied with a thread to hold them together: I told him, ‘At least you could have worn proper glasses.’ He said, ‘I got a lot of gaalis to even get this.’ I remembered that in one of his letters to me, he had written how his eyes burn and itch but the authorities would abuse and harass him, but not give him medicines and glasses. I wanted to hug him but I was not allowed to do so even once, so I held his hand and sat down on the other side of the bars next to him. I held his hands and told him, “Sarbjit, I wish I could have turned blind before seeing you like this.’ I cried profusely so much so, that I fell down holding the bars and got hurt in my forehead. That day knowing we were coming to meet him, he had requested the jail authorities to allow him some water, cold drink and ingredients for tea, as he wanted to make tea for me and serve me. They had given him a stove and he had made tea himself, sticking his hands out of the bars, and then kept it in a flask to serve us later. When I fell down, he got hassled and quickly gave me water and cold drink. Most of the 48 minutes went into crying, but fortunately he met his daughters and we talked a little about his case. I also tied him rakhi and he said, ‘I have nothing to give you today.’ He had tears in his eyes, but he tried to hide them from me even though I knew. I fed him with a piece of barfi like I always did and he bit my hand with his teeth. He said, ‘You have come to give me strength, then why are you scared?’ He recognised his daughters as he had seen their pictures through the newspaper reports. He told me how the Indian prisoners would send him newspaper cuttings hidden behind his rotis. And these he stored in the register he had kept. At that time he was sure he would come back. The one regret that I had was that I was not allowed to hug him.

What was his jail like?

There was no fan inside but outside for us, there was a small fan kept. Inside his room, he had a small pot of water with which he had to manage for the whole day, his bathing, washing clothes, using the washroom or drinking.

Did you visit him again?

I met him again in 2011, when he showed me a diary and register, where he said that he had written every word of what had happened to him in those many years. I wanted that diary after he died, as I wanted everyone to know what he went through in jail, but it was not given to me. When his body came in 2013, only that clay pot came with it. I got to meet him for three hours in 2011. And on this visit, I went to visit him twice. Unlike the last visit, this time he had not taken his bath, not prepared anything for me and looked indifferent. He was quiet and I asked him what happened? He said, ‘Didi, for many days, I don’t even eat or sleep or take a bath and I keep thinking why I am in this state and I keep thinking whether I will come back or not. I can’t even tell you what I go through here.’ I felt that if he kept thinking like that, he would get mentally ill. I summed up strength to give him some and wanted to tie many rakhis that I had taken from here, many of which had been given to me by women in the village. He said, ‘Chalo, you give them to me. I will keep tying it up slowly later.’ I said, ‘No, why are you talking like this? You will be with me in our aangan on the next rakhi.’ It’s only when I visited him for the second time that he was waiting for me, ready to serve me lassi that he had made mixing curd and water and the jail dal. He knew that I was the only one he could tell and told me how they would abuse Indians a lot there. If you ask the jail authorities for medicines or glasses or water, they would say, ‘Aaj bahar nikale? Aaj paani pilaye hi dete hain tumhe.’ He said, ‘Sometimes, they would beat me, sometimes I managed by begging them for forgiveness.’

Was it ever proven that Sarbjit had been convicted wrongly?

The sole witness of the Pakistani police Shaukat Ali was once interviewed by an Indian journalist, who managed to find him there and he said, ‘I don’t know whether Sarbjit has done it and whether he is Manjit or Sarbjit. Those days, my father had died and the police had asked me to say that Sarbjit was Manjit and that he had committed the bomb blasts in court and I said it.’

How did he finally die?

Over the years, there were many times when I would wonder if he would ever come back, but then again, I would meet people and get assured that he would come back. I had kept all the navratras, slept on the floor for 23 years, but it was after meeting SM Krishnaji, the External Affairs minister, that I felt most assured that Sarbjit would be released for sure. I don’t know from where I got the strength to fight, but I was determined and had decided that I would fight, come what may. But I quickly trust people and start feeling they are my own, but got cheated each time. Before Sheikh sahab, all the lawyers who represented us took the money from us, but cheated us in court. They did not even present our case of him not being Manjit even though they had the papers proving that. Afzal Guru had been hanged in India a couple of days before Sarbjit was attacked in prison. We learnt that there was a man who would go inside jail and supply sharpened spoons and knives made from sandooks inside jail to the prisoners there. I feel the Pakistani prisoners there took Afzal’s revenge by killing Sarabjit. I was with Swapandeep the day he was attacked. I had been having a severe back problem for two days and was in terrible pain. I could not sleep and was restless when suddenly I got a call from Pakistan telling me how he had been attacked. I screamed and woke up Swapandeep who was sleeping, but I thought we would still be able to treat him and get him back alive. It’s only when I got his body in the hospital in Lahore that I finally broke down and realised that I had lost my son forever: Uss pal meri umeed bhi khatam ho gayi aur intezaar bhi.

Are you free now?

No, I try but I can never forget Sarbjit. I wish he had come back. For 23 years, my only goal was to get him released. But now, I want people to know who he actually was. What happened with Sarbjit inside jail? What happens to Indians inside Pakistani jails? There is an innocent Pakistani prisoner in Tihar, who has paralysis, that Sarbjit would tell me about. Through this film, I want a message to go to all. I could not bring back Sarbjit, but I hope that this Pakistani child in Tihar is released.

Priya.Gupta@timesgroup.com

 

A-SATYAMAVE JAYATE

Copyright@shravancharitymission

By Kamlesh Tripathi

satya

Aamir Khan conducts ‘Satyamave Jayate’ a high moral–integrity TV serial that often takes up themes for the common man of India. In fact he could have done an episode on “Speedy justice for the common man” based on Salman Khan’s hit and run case, but instead he chose to flaunt his solidarity with a Salman. So is ‘Satyamave Jayate’ behind the scenes ‘A-satyamave Jayate?’